I generally don't believe in blanketing horses. Blankets are a hazard no matter how well constructed or how safe the environment They are expensive, difficult to clean and are the cause of all sorts of skin irritation for the horse. A healthy, well nourished equine is almost always better off relying on her own winter coat rather than our inferior replicas. The best way to keep horses warm is to make sure that they have free choice access to grass hay and good shelter. Digesting the roughage is what generates body heat (which is why older horses, whose aging teeth make eating enough hay difficult, do benefit from blanketing). All that being said, there are times when some equines need a blanket.
This past weekend, temperatures really plummeted here. The sky was blue but, it had that harsh,crystal clarity that is more apt to cut then it is to warm and there was a mean, biting wind. At night, the temperature fell into the single digits. And Emma was grumpy and plaintive. My normally cheerful, happy donkey was in a mood. She didn't want to be petted or scratched, didn't want to play games, and was even a bit irritable and uncooperative when I took her for a walk. I was concerned that maybe she was in pain or her mysterious fever was coming back. I examined every bit of her and took her temperature which was low. Too low, at 96.8. I finally stood back and just looked at her. She was standing slightly hunched and had her tail tucked as far between her legs as it would go. She was cold.
Fortunately, I was prepared. Being the obsessive-compulsive researcher that I am, I had read every book and website I could find about donkeys after bringing Emma home. Several of them had mentioned that donkeys do not regulate their body temperature as efficiently as other animals and care must be taken to make sure they don't get too cold. In a burst of what I thought at the time was just paranoia, I bought Emma a blanket, just in case. It has been sitting in the house, unopened and , I thought, unnecessary.
I think that the other reason Emma was so grumpy this weekend was simple sleep deprivation. Don't ever let anyone ever tell you that horses don't suffer from lack of sleep, they do! Emma normally takes several long naps throughout the day and night. You can count on her being stretched out flat every morning between 10-11:30. Since it snowed last week, she hasn't been enjoying her normal napping. Even with her blanket, she doesn't like laying in the snow. Tessa is, of course, totally unfazed by the weather or the snow. In fact, she enjoys it.
It all does make me wonder how she managed to survive last winter, with inadequate shelter and barely enough hay. I sure am glad all those donkeys have plenty of food and good barns this year.